ACLU Seeks to Tear Down Another War Memorial Cross

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced today that it has filed a friend of the court brief opposing the ACLU’s campaign to tear down another war memorial cross.

At issue is a small cross originally erected on Sunrise Rock in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in memory of the dead of all wars.  The cross is located in California’s Mojave Desert, in a remote area where the only visible signs of human activity are off-road vehicles and trail hikers.  The ACLU succeeded in its anti-cross agenda by obtaining a ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the cross violated the so-called separation of church and state.  However, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, Ken Salazar v. Frank Buono .

When the Supreme Court considers the case, it will have in its file a compelling brief supporting the use of crosses in war memorials filed by the Thomas More Law Center.  General - PDF Links Click here to read brief. Joining the Law Center’s brief is the Individual Rights Foundation.

Richard Thompson, the President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, commented, “Through our brief and the compelling stories of the war heroes we represent, we want the court to feel the devastating impact removing crosses will have on those who have sacrificed so much for this country.  Since the beginning of America, crosses have been used to memorialize our fallen war veterans and to give solace to their families and comrades. Ironically, the Ninth Circuit used the very constitution these veterans defended with their lives to order the destruction of the memory of their heroic sacrifices.  Sadly, the cross in the Mojave Desert is currently covered from view until the appeal is resolved.”

The Law Center’s brief was filed on behalf of former Navy pilot and Vietnam prisoner of war Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton, USN (Ret.) and the families of Marine Majors Michael D. Martino and Gerald Bloomfield, III, both of whom were killed in combat in Iraq on November 2, 2005, when their attack helicopter was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.  The memories and sacrifices of these war heroes are now preserved by plaques located under another cross, the cross at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial.  The Law Center successfully defended that cross, but the cross is the subject of another lawsuit brought against the federal government by the ACLU.

Should the Supreme Court affirm the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, the cross at Mt. Soledad, which has been the subject of much litigation over the past twenty years, will be threatened as well.  A recent ACLU case challenging the Mt. Soledad cross is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.  The Law Center has been actively involved in the successful defense of the Mt. Soledad cross for many years.

Jeremiah Denton, a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, a prisoner of war from July 18, 1965 to February 13, 1973, a former U.S. Senator from the State of Alabama, also serves as the Chairman of the Thomas More Law Center’s Advisory Board.  Admiral Denton first came to the attention of the American public during a television interview arranged by his North Vietnamese captors in 1966.  Expected to give “proper responses” to a journalist’s recitation of alleged American war atrocities, Admiral Denton affirmed his faith in America, stating, “I will support it as long as I live.”  While responding to questions from his interrogator, Admiral Denton blinked his eyes in Morse Code, repeatedly spelling out the covert message “TORTURE.”  His message was the first confirmation that American POWs were being tortured.

During his nearly eight years as a POW, Admiral Denton was subjected to severe torture.  He became the first American military captive to be subjected to four years of solitary confinement.  Admiral Denton’s extraordinary account of his endurance and sacrifice for our country while imprisoned in North Vietnam was told in his 1976 book, When Hell Was in Session .

In 2008, Admiral Denton’s incredible sacrifice for our country – a horrific sacrifice that is unimaginable to most Americans – was honored and memorialized at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial.  A plaque in his honor was placed under the cross at the veterans’ memorial during a ceremony held on September 19, 2008, the 2008 National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Previously, in May 2006, Major Martino and Major Bloomfield’s unit, which had recently returned from Iraq, sponsored a plaque-dedication ceremony at the memorial to commemorate the fallen Marines’ heroic service and to provide a place to honor them.  More than three hundred Marines stood in line in the hot sun for over three hours to meet the Marines’ families and to pay respect for their fallen comrades.

These ceremonies reveal the importance of such memorials, which provide a lasting tribute to our servicemen and servicewomen.  They provide places where family members, friends, and comrades of our war veterans can pay tribute to their heroes’ sacrifices.  Consequently, these memorials, including the crosses, convey an unmistakably American message of patriotism and self-sacrifice; they do not “establish” Christianity as a national religion, as the ACLU and others who are hostile to religion contend.

Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney who authored the brief, is a former Marine officer himself.  Said Muise, “Our brief demonstrates that removing crosses from veterans’ memorials will cause real, irreparable harm to our war heroes and their grieving families, as compared with the contrived ‘harm’ the ACLU and others who are hostile to religion will ‘feel’ because the memorial crosses remain.  Indeed, those that are hostile to our religious heritage are creating the very sort of religiously-based divisiveness that our Constitution was designed to prohibit.”

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